When Belly arrived on the scene with Star in 1993, it seemed they could do no wrong. Their song Feed the Tree brought them three Grammy nominations, and the album eventually went gold, establishing them among the mainstream acts.
Although King appeared only two years later, it barely left an impression, and Donelly broke up the band the following year. Even if King is unable to deliver a radio-friendly anthem, it is certainly not for lack of trying. The surging Seal My Fate is the hit that never was, with Tanya’s melancholy tones building into a powerful chorus backed with shimmering guitars. ‘And when you breathe, you breathe for two,’ sings Donelly, and although you’re not quite sure what she means, you find yourself singing along with her.
The first half of the album is filled with glorious reminders of why Star was so good: Donelly’s fantastic vocal range is brought to the fore with Puberty and the intricate Red, whose frequent changes in tempo make you feel as if you’re on some sort of magical carpet ride. At first, slower songs such as Silverfish and The Bees seem to pale in comparison, but with repeated listens their beauty is plain to see. Although the album ends with the slightly underwhelming Judas my Heart (surpassed only by the terrible French version of the song) there is still time for the terrific Now They’ll Sleep, which has the great line ‘you know what shape my breath will take before I let it out’ – beautiful! Musically the song is the equal of anything on Star.
The one slight issue I have with Star is the production. Recorded in the Bahamas with top producer Glyn Johns, King’s sound is much more raw, which works with some bands but certainly not with Belly, where the mystique and gloss are one of the main reasons they are so great. However, this album has stood the test of time, at least if not better than Star, and anyone with a smattering of interest in 90s alternative rock would be advised to give it a try.